Sleep is a seminal stoner, doom metal band featuring Al Cisneros, Matt Pike (later of High on Fire) and a rotating cast of drummers. Their magnum opus is the hourlong track Dopesmoker, which makes an excellent accompaniment to epic trainer sessions or to staring at the ocean for extended periods of time contemplating nothingness. I don’t consume marijuana myself, but I do find the work of Sleep and the many other bands who practice this heavy, droning music very pleasurable. See also, Electric Wizard’s Funeralopolis from the excellent Dopethrone record. Try not to fixate on the lyrical themes, but just let your mind drift away on the plodding melody lines. It’s meditative.
Like Sleep itself, which is key to recovery. I often think that my inability to be as awesome as I used to be, may be down to the fact that I just don’t sleep like I used to. The alarm is set for 6am most mornings (earlier sometimes), and yet too often I find myself laying open-eyed in the pre-dawn white light wondering when it will go off. What time is it? Oh, it’s 4:30. What do I do now? Apparently, I roll around wondering how my body got so stiff and sore, who snuck in and beat me with a length of garden hose, and trying to come to terms with my physical existence before the day starts and people start expecting things from me.
If I have a big ride or event in the morning, the chances I will be woken by the alarm approach zero. All night I’m dreaming about the alarm going off. 1am. 2am. 3am. 4am. I wake with a start, sure I’ve missed the meet up or the starter’s pistol. It makes for a less than stellar performance and an even greater over-reliance on coffee.
I talked to a high-level randonneur once, a guy who had recently finished Paris-Brest-Paris. Frankly, he was a little insufferable, but he did offer this piece of wisdom. He said, “When you are so far into a ride and you are suffering, things get very simple. You need to eat, or you need to slow down, or you need to sleep.” This struck me as much more than good advice for riding a bike too far.
For example, if it’s Tuesday, and you’re in front of your computer or halfway through digging a ditch or whatever it is you do with your day, and you’re suffering in that way that I know you are, you probably need to eat, slow down, or maybe just sleep. Maybe just sleep. Maybe just sleep. Maybe. Just. Sleep.
Our devices have this magical thing called “sleep mode.” When they’re not being used actively, they don’t quite shut down but enter a sort of digital catatonia. I would very much like for it to be acceptable for each of us, when not pressed into service by our wage-masters, to enter this nether state, this blissful nothingness. Low power mode. Waking sleep.
I sometimes daydream about sleeping. Could that be right? And if so, am I sleeping now? Is this all a recursive dream unfolding hours before the alarm really does go off? Or am I caught in some sort of purgatorial half-sleep, best accompanied by Sleep’s longest, droniest, riffery? And why is half-sleep not restorative at all? In my daydreams, I am enjoying a good lie in. There is no alarm. The bed has never been more comfortable. I am in a perfect state of rest.
But nature abhors such a thing, like a vacuum or a cantilever brake with good modulation and reasonable stopping power, and I’ve miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go. Before I sleep.
Wow, it’s hard to avoid death metaphors here. Sleep is the death of the day after all. Or, imagine your life as one long ride, someone always pushing the pace when you’re just trying to sit on a wheel and keep your s&*t together. There are a few aid stations. You get some moments off the front if you’re lucky. Towards the end you’re not really sure how you’re still pedaling. And then it’s over. And you climb off and sleep, and it’s good.